Sunday, July 29, 2012

Knife Shaved Noodles

Knife shaved noodles (刀削面) are made by slicing the noodles off of a chunk of dough into boiling water.  They come out thick and chewy with rough edges that pick up seasonings very well. This little noodle shop a few minutes' walk from Chunxi Road caught my eye because it offers one liang servings. Most places that do noodles handmade to order, such as bedspread noodles and knife shaved noodles, will prepare at minimum a two liang serving.

One liang of noodles with sauce:

Because of the day's heat, most of the other customers were digging into sweet liang gao, and then ordering noodles afterwards. The proprietor asked several questions - What flavour noodle toppings did I want? Did I want hot sauce? Really? Did I want noodles in broth, or (my choice) dry?

The noodles hit the spot, and the bowl of veg I ordered on the side was fresh and plentiful. I was happy to find a good, basic noodle shop this close to downtown.

Name of shop: 刀削面
Address in Chinese: 三圣街 58-11 号

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Xiao Tan Dou Hua

The plan was to visit a cold noodle shop on Hua Pai Fang street, but the shop was no more. So I ended up at the Xi Da Jie branch of Xiao Tan Dou Hua for the first time in over a year. I ordered up a beef dou hua, which was fantastic, better even than I remembered:

Tian shui mian, a little sloppy with the seasonings:

Stirred up:

These noodles were a little stiff and the seasoning is better at Zhang's, but Xiao Tan Dou Hua is still a classic.

Cups of Coffee

We've had a couple of new coffee shops open in town, over on the east second ring in a gigantic new shopping centre called Wan Xiang Cheng. (For readers familiar with the great West Edmonton Mall, Wan Xiang Cheng is about the size of two phases.)

Pacific Coffee hails from Hong Kong. They open unusually early, at 8 am, so I went in and asked for a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino, no foam please (no foam=不要奶泡). Should be a decent way to start the day, but there was little coffee flavour in the drink and the croissant was made with an unusual flavoured butter alternative.

Costa Coffee, right next door, is an import from England. I wanted to try the same order of cappuccino with no foam, but the server said cappuccinos were 30% foam and it wasn't worth it, so I just asked for an espresso. It was barely a tablespoon and I couldn't catch any coffee aroma without practically putting my nose in the cup.

The very cute sweets, 11 yuan each, according to the server are made in Shanghai and flown in, but I would have been happier with a sugar cookie. The filling was strange textured and the macaron on top was crumbly rather than crisp.

Both Pacific and Costa are carefully priced to compete with the green siren, but based on their coffee there is not much reason to make a switch, unfortunately.

Judging from all the bakeries opening up lately, mostly proliferating chains, Chengdu is developing a wicked collective sweet tooth. It's tough to pick out standouts, but one very popular bakery is called 85 degrees. I was reading the online reviews and found that people were loving the 'sea salt green tea' (海岩奶绿). They also have sea salt coffee (海岩咖啡). I tried both drinks, which are the usual sweet green tea and coffee mix, but with a layer of very salty creamy substance floating on top. It's the first time I've come across this flavour profile in a drink. The coffee is ten yuan, the tea is eight.


Sweet Stuff: Aizi Xian Bing

Getting treatment at the Chinese Traditional Medicine hospital is a popular and usually inexpensive alternative to western medicine, but a couple of long waits are involved – first when when you take your number and wait to see the doctor, and second,while you are waiting for your prescription to be filled. We noticed quite a few people taking advantage of the lull to pick up a package of 'aizi xian bing' - the name means something like short stuffed buns - from this little storefront on the west first ring. I don't know any other place that sells them, but they are supposedly a Wuhan import. 

There is usually a lineup at the window. Flavours are red and green bean, coconut, and sesame. They are fantastic when fresh and warm, and my favourites are green bean and coconut. I tried to buy sesame filling once and was told they were not good, not sweet enough.


Name in Chinese: 矮子馅饼

Address: 一环路西二段36号附2号

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pork Intestine Rice Noodles - Bai Jia Fei Chang Fen

Pork intestine (fei chang) is the starting point of some of the most loved local dishes in Sichuan. It is stewed, stir fried, stirred into hot pot, adds richness to dishes like bean soup, and gets the dry pot treatment, among others. I once watched a couple of guys buying a huge length of it in the supermarket with the obvious anticipation that one of my compatriots might show picking out a top grade steak. I get why it is so popular - there is a chewy outside and a tender inside to the organ that gives it both absorbency and 'kou gan' (mouthfeel), but I only order it at reputable places since it has to be cleaned and prepared carefully or the barnyard notes get a little too much for my taste.

A popular way to eat fei chang is in soup with rice noodles - fei chang fen. Many of the shops selling fei chang fen in Chengdu advertise Bai Jia style. We went to Bai Jia Village in Shuangliu to try the original. Besides noodles, we sampled a few of their other dishes prepared with pork intestine.

By the door, as is typical with fei chang fen shops, was a guo kui station. Guo kui is the traditional accompaniment to fei chang fen. My host said that during the holiday, there was a half hour lineup for this guo kui.

The guo kui was nicely browned but not too oily, and tender and flaky. There was not a lot of meat filling but we didn't miss it. It did complement the bowl of rice noodles well. We ordered the rice noodles without hot sauce, but many people like to get them spicy.

The first dish to land on the table was cold mixed fei chang (凉拌肥肠). Spicy, salty, delicious.

We then dipped into a bowl of 'stewed knotted intestine soup' (冒结子汤). My table companions were impressed with its fragrance.

Fragrant crispy intestine (香酥 肥肠 ) that had been sliced into rings and deep fried, one of my favourite dishes of the day:

Dry pot style (干涡 肥肠 ), one of the dishes that really impressed me with the kitchen's cooking skill. Besides the fei chang, vegetables, and hot pepper there were other flavourful touches like reconstituted dried mushrooms and ginger. All of the components really worked well together.

Mouthwatering intestine (口水 肥肠 ) lived up to its name. It was spicy but well balanced.

Last but not least, intestine steamed in rice meal (粉蒸 肥肠 ), which melted in the mouth.


Name: Bai Jia Gao Ji Fei Chang Fen, Original Shop
Name and Address in Chinese: 白家高记 肥肠 粉总店, 成都 双流白家镇新街 136 号

Wenshu Temple over the holiday

Wenshu Temple is a hotbed of activity during the Spring Festival and had lots of extra booths set out, as usual.

Yak jerky, and various other dried creatures:

There were piles of crunchy sweets made from grains and nuts:

The lineup at Gong Ting Tao Su was even longer than usual.

Zhang's Liang Fen was standing room only, even on the outside.

It was far easier to grab a chair across the alley at Long Chao Shou, where the servers showed great annoyance that neither I nor the three customers ahead of me had change. I hadn't eaten at Long Chao Shou in years, due to repeatedly being disappointed by their signature product, but it remains a tourist favourite so I decided to drop in.

My san he ni, which was tasty but gummy - too much sticky rice in relation to the other ingredients.

I also got an order of chao shou in mushroom broth. The chao shou had good filling and were nicely cooked, tasting much better than I remember. Though I was impressed with the dumplings, the mushroom soup tasted like it was from a mix.

Fresh blended Soy Milk

I've been noticing more and more of this 'fresh blended soy milk' being sold as a snack. Cooked soybeans are blended whole with hot water and additions. The menu lists the health benefits of each type of soy milk - you can add red, black, and green beans, peanuts, oatmeal, mountain yam, lotus seeds, dates, goji berries, sesame seeds, and corn, in various combinations. Sugar is usually added, but I tell the vendor not to bother.

Big blender and additions:

Closer look at the additions:

Menu with formulas and health benefits:

Location: Yulin Dong Lu 玉林东路

Chicken Soup Shop

It's been a while since I visited this place. It is as good as ever, with its set menu of chicken soup and side dishes. I sat upstairs this time. I did notice that quite a few of the other diners were eating spicy cold seasoned chicken (凉拌鸡) rather than chicken soup.

The side dishes are now chargeable, so it is not as inexpensive to eat here as it once was.

Chicken soup, cabbage and tofu, pumpkin rice: